One of my dear readers was unfortunately diagnosed with FBC (f-bomb breast cancer for new readers). She is having surgery in the next couple of weeks and asked me if I would do a post on how to prepare. Absa-positive-ly!
Having surgery – any kind of surgery! – is one of life’s most difficult experiences. Yes, I know that I’m stating the obvious. The period between a diagnosis and surgery is a time of ultimate vulnerability and loss of control, and it brings us face to face with our mortality.
In addition, there is fear of pain, the unknown, disability, disfigurement, loss, and embarrassment, all the while in the context of separation from everyday life. This is a huge psychological burden that patients must face, in addition to the difficulties of the medical problem they’re having.
I firmly believe that there are mental, emotional and physical things that can be done to optimize surgical outcomes. Two weeks before my double mastectomy, the HOTY (i.e., Husband of the Year) and Suddenly Seven took a trip to Arizona to clear all of our heads and prepare for the road ahead. One week before surgery, I exercised, slept and relaxed as much as I possibly could. That is NOT to say that I removed thoughts or worries about the upcoming surgery from my mind. That was not possible and it would be silly for me to do otherwise. But what I did do was focus very hard on doing everything that I could do to rest and fuel to prepare.
Here are a few other of my top suggestions to prepare for surgery:
- Become informed! Ask Questions! Here are some questions to ask before surgery
- Why do I need this operation? Is it to cure a condition or to find an answer?
- How soon do I need this operation?
- Where should I have this operation performed?
- What alternatives to surgery do I have?
- What would happen if I took a watch-and-wait approach instead?
- What are my detailed pre-op and post-op instructions?
- Are there things I can do to help myself prepare for surgery, such as reviewing specific reading materials or relaxation techniques?
- Reduce stress. Don’t laugh. It CAN be done, even if you are preparing for surgery. Here’s the reason: triggering the release of healing hormones like endorphins and serotonin will help the healing process. Did you know that endorphins are considered to be your body’s natural pain killer? Yep, so they also help you cope better with your pain. Here’s the other thing: when you’re anxious and your stress level is way up, your body releases a hormone called cortisol that can alter white blood cell function, compromise your immune system and create a more open environment to infection.
- Relax! Relaxation before surgery is hugely important. And, YES, it can be done. By learning the skill of deep relaxation, it is possible to reduce anxiety and promote a feeling of calmness, which in turn soothes the nervous system and helps strengthen the immune system. Additionally, relaxation helps balance the endocrine and cardiovascular systems, engaging the multifaceted biochemistry concerned with overall healing.
- Stop nutritional supplements. When it comes to supplements including vitamins and minerals (e.g., iron and calcium), it is ideal to stop them a week before surgery. This varies with different types of surgery, so be sure to ask your doctor what you can and cannot do.
- Diet modification. Begin increasing protein intake a few weeks before surgery to build up both your strength and your tissues. Eat high quality proteins such as fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. High-fiber foods (whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes), calcium-rich foods (nuts, fruits, some leafy greens), and foods containing essential fatty acids (some nuts, seeds, or vegetable oils) are also helpful. Try to avoid a lot of dairy products, sweets, and baked goods as well as high saturated fatty foods such as fried foods, heavy meats, and cured meats. Your diet can usually be a little lighter a few days before surgery, emphasizing more fruits, vegetables, and liquids. This will help ease the stress on your digestive system. Avoid stimulants such as coffee and sedatives such as alcohol prior to elective surgery. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!
- Exercise. Exercise before surgery will help you recover more quickly and easily. Now, I don’t recommend running a marathon or exacerbate any other physical condition that you might have. I suggest walking, slow jogging, weights, and/or Yoga. The Silver Lining of exercise is that it can help you relax and reduce stress.
- Stop smoking. Please oh please don’t ask me to explain why!
Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster is a great program that helps people learn tools that can help them relax and feel calmer before surgery, procedures and tests, and aid in the recovery process. It is ideal to start the program one to two weeks prior to surgery. However, even one day of the program can provide benefits.